Ahmed Musa to play Vardy role for Leicester?

By Daily Sports on May 27, 2016

Views: 1,870

Leicester City’s Premier League title triumph remains in the realm of the barely credible, even more so considering the composition of their first team. Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez joined from Le Havre for half a million euros, and Shinji Okazaki, the most expensive acquisition in the starting XI, came at a meagre cost of €11 million.

Of course, their elevation in status means bargains will be more difficult to unearth, a fact their latest bid for Nigeria international Ahmed Musa, believed to be in the range of €25 million, handily proves.

The 23-year-old led CSKA Moscow in scoring with 13 goals as the Army Men captured the Russian Premier League title on the final day of the season; he has won half a century of caps for the Nigeria national team and has played in a World Cup – no member of the Leicester first XI can claim quite the same pedigree.

The intriguing question is just how Claudio Ranieri plans to utilise the speedy forward. At CSKA and with the Super Eagles, Musa has featured most frequently in wide positions; on the left for club, and on the right for country. However, in terms of style, he has a completely different profile to Leicester’s two starting wide players.

Mahrez’s pace is replicable by Musa, but his dribbling, close control and passing is not. Marc Albrighton, who starts on the left, is tasked with cutting inside quickly and delivering the ball into the area before opposing defences set, aside his menace from dead-ball situations. Again, this does not even remotely approximate the skillset of the mercurial Musa.

The former Super Eagles captain prefers a starting position on the left, staying very wide and looking to receive diagonals with his right instep, opening up his body for the possibility of a dart inside the full-back. He is more inside-forward than winger.

There is of course the likelihood that Ranieri is looking to make a shift tactically. Leicester’s default 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 requires the midfield pair to cover a lot of ground, not that you would find the relentless N’Golo Kante grumbling about it. That said, with the demands of the Champions League to come, as well as the wearing off of the surprise factor, tactical flexibility might be the way to go.

However, while this may well be in the manager’s mind – he would not be the ‘Tinkerman’ if he wasn’t, at the very least, considering it – it is unlikely the move for Musa is being made with that object. The Foxes initially made an approach for him in the winter transfer window, an indication he was targeted to plug straight away into the existing matrix.

So where would he fit? Considered holistically, it would not be a stretch to see him act as relief for club top scorer Jamie Vardy. The quoted fee is quite steep for a back-up forward, but to look at it that way would be to discount the unique nature of what the England international brings to Leicester’s play.

There are a number of striking similarities between both players. Aside the obvious one – searing pace off the mark – Musa’s most underappreciated asset is quite possibly his movement. Vardy has refined peeling off into the channel – particularly the left – to receive raking diagonals to an art form, and while the Nigeria international’s touch is not quite at the same level, the quality of some of his runs is surprisingly good. In learning to replicate that run into the channel, Musa would effectively be receiving the ball in his favoured zone.

Another common thread is a tenacity and impulsiveness that more than makes up for a slight deficit of refinement and physical prowess. No one is going to assert that Vardy possesses the poise of a peak Marco Van Basten, for example, or the towering menace of Oliver Bierhoff. Yet, for a player often asked to plough a lone furrow upfront, relentlessness is just as unsettling for the opposing defence, slowly fraying the edges of the mind and tasking the concentration endlessly.

Musa can often look slightly unrefined, but his latent unpredictability would be just as much of a handful – he sometimes appears unsure what he himself might do.

Then we come to the elephant in the room. Can he score goals? Here, there is perhaps something of a myth that needs to be busted: the notion that he is profligate. Musa has hit double figures for goals in three of the last four league seasons in Russia, and this while mostly playing wide on the left; evidently, he can finish.

Need further proof? Witness his brace at the 2014 World Cup against eventual finalists Argentina.

•Excerpted from a Goal feature. Photo shows Ahmed Musa in action.

Source Daily Sports

Posted May 27, 2016


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